Aaron Brooks is being inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame on Sunday.
Who’s next? Billy Joe Hobert?
Seriously, couldn’t the selection committee — consisting primarily of my esteemed press box colleagues — have done any better?
Well, yes and no.
Yes, in that the quarterback whose time with the team ended ignominiously with his benching for the final three games of the Hurricane Katrina-caused disaster they called the 2005 season, probably exited among the top 10 least-popular players in franchise history and thus on the surface seems a curious choice.
But, no, in that in Brooks we’re talking about an unknown second-year player who replaced the injured Jeff Blake late in the 2000 season and threw four touchdown passes in the Saints’ first-ever playoff victory and held, among other things, the team records for passing yards in a game and touchdown passes in a season until Drew Brees came along.
So that should count for something, just as the 768 points scored by kicker John Carney, Sunday’s other inductee, which are second only to Morten Andersen’s 1,318, merit his selection.
But the fact remains that the standards for selection to the Hall of Fame, which is operated independently from the team, are not necessarily that high.
Maybe that’s why Brooks and Carney are the 39th and 40th players, along with four coaches/administrators, elected to the hall since it was established in 1988. In contrast, the San Francisco 49ers, whose first season came 19 years before the Saints debuted and whose history has been far more illustrious, have only 24 players and four others in theirs.
The 49ers list their criteria for induction as outstanding production and performance on the field, key contributions to the team’s success and embodying the spirit and essence of the franchise.
There’s no such written criteria for the Saints, or even a minimum-years-with-the-franchise requirement. The only rule is that a player has to be three years removed from his last season with the Saints and out of football for at least one year.
To the selection committee’s credit, it’s never elected players like Earl Campbell or Jim Taylor, whose Pro Football Hall of Fame seasons were spent elsewhere. Hank Stram and Mike Ditka, both Super Bowl-winning coaches who were a combined 22-54 with the Saints, aren’t in, either.
There’s also an unstated morals clause. That’s why the late Chuck Muncie, whose drug use helped derail a promising time for the team, isn’t in.
And some committee members will tell you that the list of worthy nominees is getting a little thin and will be until the bulk of the Sean Payton-era players become eligible. Then, they’re going to have to add an extra wing to the current display in the hall’s location near Gate B on the Plaza Level of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
As a longtime member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame selection committee, I can attest to the fact that there’s no easy way to quantify a person’s qualifications.
Sometimes, it has to go beyond mere numbers, and a person’s impact has to be taken into account.
With that in mind, for your consideration, committee members, are some names to chew on:
- Ricky Williams. You want impact? Think of the national reaction when Dikta traded away the entire 1999 draft and part of 2000’s to land the Heisman Trophy winner.
True, Williams played in New Orleans for only three seasons, but he rushed for 1,000 and 1,245 yards in the final two. Only two others, Reuben Mayes and Deuce McAllister, have more than one, and they’re both in the hall.
- Steve Gleason. Another impact player.
There’s a reason his blocked punt in the Superdome in 2006 is immortalized with a statue outside the Dome. There’s never been a more emotional moment in team history.
True, Gleason was almost exclusively a special teams player, but he was with the Saints for seven seasons. Plus, his work through Team Gleason has been incalculable.
- Devery Henderson. He’ll be eligible in another year and before the slew of more productive receivers overtakes him, Henderson should be remembered as the team’s best-ever deep threat with a record 17.9 yards per catch for his career, including a 24.8 average in 2008, another record.
- Mark Fields. The team’s first-round draft pick in 1995, Fields played six seasons with the Saints and was one of the leading tacklers each season.
In the Saints’ 2000 season — the one where Brooks emerged — Fields made his only Pro Bowl appearance. Never a favorite of Jim Haslett, Fields became a free agent after the 2001 season, or his time with the Saints would have been longer. As it was, compared to some of the previous selectees, Fields’ numbers speak for themselves.
- Hokie Gajan . His playing career lasted for only four years, but Gajan’s 6.03 yards-per-carry in 1984 is the third-best in NFL history. After his playing career, Gajan spent 18 years with the team as a scout, and he’s been a broadcaster for more than a decade.
If there’s a “Mr. Saint,” it’s Hokie.